Bass on a Fly – Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing

welcome to the Orbis guide to fly-fishing I’m your host Tom Rosenbauer bass are the number-one sport fish in North America and for good reason they’re readily available aggressive and a lot of fun to catch best of all you can catch them virtually anywhere in both rural and urban settings heck you can even catch them in Central Park catching bass on a fly rod is so much fun and anyone can do it in this episode we’ll discuss all the basics you need to catch bass on a fly because this is the way to cap this show has been brought to you by Orvis sporting traditions Ontario yours to discover Ontario’s Algoma region who are huron and superior meeting I love catching bass they strike hard they jump and there are a lot of fun to catch especially on a fly rod I know that many of you already fish for bass using plastic worms topwater lures and hard baits well fly-fishing is similar it’s all about figuring out what the bass are feeding on we use different types of flies to imitate these food sources for bass then present them as naturally as possible this can be anything from imitating a frog or a mouse on the surface to flies that replicate bait fish or even crayfish underwater and some bass flies don’t look like anything in particular they just look good to eat the key is to get the fly near a bass and make it look like something alive doesn’t really take much to get started in fly fishing for bass you need an inexpensive rod outfit and some basic flies then you’re in business bass are often aggressive and opportunistic and will attack anything that looks alive you don’t really have to worry that much about fly selection and that’s why bass fishing is a great way to get started often this action is all on the surface which makes it that much more exciting because everything is visual but first let’s discuss the physical differences between largemouth and smallmouth bass and also discuss the environments they inhabit differentiating smallmouth and largemouth is simple if the mouth only extends to the middle of the eye it’s a small mouth if the mouth extends beyond the eye then it’s a large mouth body markings are also a giveaway largemouth are green and have a defined black lateral line smallmouth are brown or bronze with vertical black lines and usually some horizontal lines on their cheeks to understand the environments bass live in at different times a year I went right to the expert my friend Dave Philip Davis spent his life studying bass professionally as a biologist and also chasing them with a fly rod largemouth and smallmouth bass are similar in a lot of ways but they do have some subtle differences in the springtime as the water warms they move into the shallows one to warm up so become more active and they look for food items as well that are also trying to warm up so minnows and frogs are along the banks in the springtime and they’re looking for those they also are moving in to spawn as the water temperatures warm up they’re done with spawning smallmouth tend to move into deeper cooler water more so than largemouth although both you could get along the shallows at dawn and at dusk the largemouth hang out in the lily pads and the weeds and the shallows all year round in the sticks etc so they also tend to go into different types of water large mouths like darker readier warmer water small mouths like cooler water either flowing streams or in deeper water off of rocky points so in the heat of the summer you need to look in deep water for smallmouth sometime shallower water for largemouth back in the fall then they’ll get more active in the shallows and move in and feed heavily getting ready for winter so they can be off deep points feeding on minnows following minnows up at night into the shoreline etc and so it depends on the time of the day the time of the season which species you’re looking at but you’ll still be able to catch fish you have to consider two factors whether the

best can be caught below the surface or on the surface the answer is based on a few simple factors what the bass are hunting for in terms of forage and of course the impact of weather time a day and time of year if you haven’t fish for bass before these are things you’ll quickly learn the key is we have two choices of presentations to make with a fly rod either on top or below the surface most of the time you can catch bass on subsurface flies just like with conventional lures bass love Dee minnow shed even juvenile bass if they can bait fish provide a lot of nutrition for a bass which is critical for their survival there’s a wide variety of conventional lures available that imitate various baitfish based on shape collar and action bass flies are the same they’re also made to replicate the size collar and relative action of baitfish the only difference is that the Flies are made from feathers fur and synthetics whereas lures are usually made from plastic would the same comparison applies for other food sources for bass things like crayfish mice and frogs some people tie their own flies but you don’t need to do that you can buy already made flies from your local fly shop or online catalog store you just need a good general selection based on the kind of bass food that’s in your area so let’s discuss the equipment needed for fly fishing for bass the best all-round rod for bass fishing for largemouth and smallmouth probably an eighth weight you need an eighth weight because you need a heavier line to drive some of those bigger flies more air resistance flies like hair bugs and big poppers and and big big hairy streamers now if you’re only fishing for small mouths you can use a six or even a seven weight because the flies are a little bit smaller and it’s not really determined by the size of the fish it’s more the size of fly you’re fishing and large mouths figure more air resistance flies small mouths smaller slimmer flies in general for bass fishing you don’t need an expensive reel your reel is mainly going to be used for storing your line you don’t need an expensive drag system for bass because they seldom pull any line the best fly line to use is a simple weight forward taper which will help turn over the large flies used for top water bugs to learn more about proper bass equipment setups visit the Orvis website at or viscom so now we have some of the basics of bass fishing let’s look at how to apply these basics to rivers streams and lakes it’s really easy to understand and I know you’ll have a ball doing it you come on up baby yeah sometimes you have to go deep for a bass days like this you’ve got to go deep virtually every large city in North America has ponds lakes or rivers that hold bass the first thing you should know about bass and rivers and streams is that generally large month the smallmouth will seek out different parts of moving water largemouth bass will usually be in the slower we tier deeper sections of a river especially around logs roots fallen trees and weed beds smallmouth can tolerate faster moving water and will be right in the current or riffles they’d like to hold behind in front of boulders rocks along banks and especially around rock ledges they can also find cover around fallen trees and logs but they like it to be a little bit closer to moving water generally is easy to locate bass on small creeks and rivers it’ll be pretty apparent where they’re living on larger rivers which are actually almost like lakes it’s a little bit tougher and you have to seek out the structure I guess what I like about stream fishing for bass is that they’re usually easy to locate find a riffle running into deeper water or some structure and you’re bound to find small boats small streams and most rivers are easy to fish from the bank or just by wearing waders and walking in the water unlocker you’ll probably have to use a boat again look for structure that’ll hold an attract bass and put your fly as close to the cover as possible searching for bass on lakes takes a little more thought in research there’s a lot of big water in most big lakes that’ll be empty of bass so you have to determine where the structure is

and where their food supply might be on lake structure is key especially if it’s close to deepwater bass like deepwater because it provides security from their predator structures that you should cast to include docks boat houses rocky shorelines shoals fallen trees weed beds and any other kind of structure that will provide cover to the bass you also need to consider what the bass might be eating your powers of observation can help a lot with this when you wade into a river and notice lots of small crayfish along the bottom that’s a pretty good indicator that bass will be keyed into eating them so a crayfish pattern will be best bass love crayfish it also means that you should be casting to rocky shorelines where the crayfish are most likely to be living you can get it to sink straight on it good you got it all right he ate that crayfish pretty well they love minnows they love leeches they love insects big insect larvae but crayfish are their number one prey you can never go wrong fishing a sunken crayfish fly to a smallmouth beautiful fish don’t have to handle them one way goes smallmouth bass you know although although we’d like to catch these small mouths on the surface the middle of a bright day fish are in pretty deep water so we’re fishing a crayfish fly and you got to be careful when you fish a crayfish fly you want to throw it beyond where you think the fish is and then strip it back and let it drop strip it back and let it drop and watch the tip of your floating line because that fish took it on the drop is they usually did and all I saw was that line dart forward and then I did a strip strike and there was the fish slide out the hook on the other hand if you see minnows jumping from the water pretty good indication that they’re being chased by predators like bass if you see this it’s a good idea to switch to a streamer fly that imitates a minnow and it should be roughly the same size and shape as the minnows you saw it jumping cast right into where you saw the minnows jump you might be in for a surprise you don’t need a wide variety of flies for smallmouth bass first and foremost is some sort of crayfish invitation like this one here it’s weighted gets down near the bottom and you fish it with twitches or just sinking to the bottom one of the most popular flies for smallmouth bass is a black wooly bugger imitates hellgrammite switch they feed on in streams very heavily also could be a crayfish imitation or some sort of bait fish or lychee invitation but small mas love a black woolly bugger then maybe some sort of trout dry fly like this big stone flight they will come up for insects and some big some big trout sized flies will work for smallmouth and then a couple of surface flies a slider like this white sneaky pete this one doesn’t make quite as much commotion in the water and then finally a popping bug one with a face that pops that make some noise in the water smallmouth or aggressive feeders and they will come up for a for a popper that’s worked fairly aggressively across the surface because largemouth bass there’s such voracious predators they’ll eat almost anything and they got a big mouth so they can inhale some pretty large flies the Flies are gonna use probably a little bit bigger than they use for smallmouth some of the popular ones are some sort of streamer this one happens to imitate us a sunfish and sunfish are not only prime largemouth bass food but they’re also nest predators on largemouth bass so they’ll they’ll grab a sunfish when it gets near this is a twisty tail with lead ice doesn’t imitate anything really it’s a lure just like a bass lure traditional cork popper is one of the most fun ways to catch a largemouth particularly mornings and evenings when they’re when they’re near the surface and in shallow water they need a lot of frogs this happens to be a deer hair frog great fly for largemouth fun to fish and then finally who could go largemouth fishing without a mouse imitation they lots of mice and small rodents so now we understand more about rivers streams and lakes and where bass will live in them we’ve also discussed using our powers of observation to detect what the bass may be eating now in the next segment we’ll discuss cast and retrieves to tie it all together

you in fly fishing the line propels the fly in spin fishing casting the lure propels the line to the target it’s important to understand you don’t need to make long cast to catch a bass on a fly simple casts of 20 to 30 feet will be fine now let’s visit my friend Pete cuts are from the Orbis fly fishing schools for some tips on casting big bass bugs in the wind hi I’m Pete coots are from the Orbis fly fishing schools today we’re going to talk about tips on how to cast in windy conditions when can be a little bit intimidating for some folks trying to cast that fly in the in those windy conditions can be a little bit difficult however there are some things we can do to help deal with that wind a wind coming at you a wind coming at your non casting shoulder wind coming at your casting shoulder or behind you there are different casts we can do for each one of these situations let’s start off with a wind coming directly at you a wind coming straight at you is not the worst wind to deal with there’s a couple things we can do the first is make a low angle cast and get below the wind if we can send that fly out underneath the wind we can deliver that fly to our target watch shore birds when they’re flying around at the beach they almost fly between the waves there’s a lot less wind down low another option is to make a high angle back cast and drive that fly down through the wind down to the water you don’t get the best presentation when you’re making that cast but it can help deal with those windy conditions when you’re dealing with a wind coming at your non casting shoulder I’m right-handed so if that wind was blowing out my left shoulder what I might have to do is compensate for that wind a little bit I can send that fly a little bit more to the left of that target hopefully that wind will blow it on track or just like with that wind coming at me I can cast below the wind making that low angle cast and getting that fly out to target if I have a win blowing at my back that wind can be a little more difficult than you think you want to make a low angle back cast and get that line underneath the wind make sure that line gets out nice and straight then we can make that higher angle forward cast the cast almost looks a little bit like an oval we’re going to make a low back cast bring the rod tip up than a high forward cast to deliver that fly out to our the worst one you can deal with is a wind blowing at your casting shoulder when you’re dealing with that wind that can in some cases blow that fly right into you hooking yourself I’ve hooked myself in the neck in the ear in the back even in the rear end it’s not very comfortable so there’s a couple techniques one technique is actually taking that raw tip and angling it over your left hand shoulder make a high angle cast and get that line off your shoulder above you one friend used to describe it as combing your hair comb your hair that’s going to keep that fly off of that left shoulder another technique is to switch hands practice casting with your non-dominant hand I practice all the time and it really does help in those windy conditions but perhaps the easiest technique to deal with those windy conditions at your casting shoulder is to simply turn your back to the wind and make a back cast delivering that fly to the fish that’s going to keep that fly well away from you keep you nice and safe and help you catch more fish to lure more casting techniques visit the Orvis Learning Center for more information and videos okay so now we’ve learned some casting techniques for bass let’s discuss retrieves that help animate your flies so that they imitate food items that bass prey on now all these flies worked very well but you have to do your part you have to animate the fly so it looks to the bass like something it wants to eat animating and retrieving a bass fly is the fun part of fly fishing for bass because you’re making it look natural with your own emotions the best way to give action to a bass fly is to keep your rod tip low and give it all the action by stripping the line at various speeds there’s a real tendency when your bass fishing to twitch the rod tip to give the fly action and that creates problems it throws slack into your line you’re gonna miss strikes and you’re not going to be prepared for the next cast so if you can it’s hard to do but if you can try to give that fly action you what by stripping the line and keeping the rod tip low to the water you’ll really get the same action and you’ll always be in control of your fly when you’re fishing with a sinking line you want to try all different kinds of retrieves you can’t see the fish you don’t know other reacting to the fly so sometimes you want to do long slow strips just barely

crawling that fly along and really long strips so that the fly goes steady other times you might want to give it sharp little wraps or you might want to really rip the line back in and everything in between so you you’ve got experiment it’s usually best to change your retrieve before you change flies you just like catching bass with conventional tackle when using a fly rod for bass you have to understand these fish how they live how they eat how they survive what they do during the day and what they do throughout the year but this is part of the fun of fly fishing learning how they operate within their ecosystems I encourage you to read everything you can about bass and watch videos to learn more about how to catch them catching bass on a fly rod is just a blast they’re available to almost anyone within just a few minutes drive of home I hope you’ll try it out with a fly rod I know you’ll enjoy not hard to figure out why bass are America’s favorite game fish and they’re great on a fly rod you don’t have to cast very far you don’t need a lot of fancy flies you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment everything I’ve got here for catching bass cost around two hundred dollars a complete fly rod outfit for catching bass and we’re having a ball today you too can enjoy bass fishing on a fly rod and it’s easy to get started the best thing about bass is that they’re readily available to almost everyone throughout North America to learn more about this episode and bass fishing on a fly go to the Orvis Learning Center at or viscom slash learn to fly fish thanks for watching and we’ll see you on the water this show has been brought to you by Orbis sporting traditions Ontario yours to discover Ontario’s Algoma region right Huron and spear me